The following “fun facts” are presented as instant analysis of the November 3 election for the Crystal Ball’s readers, straight from the mouth of U.Va. Center for Politics Director Larry J. Sabato, with the editorial assistance of Isaac Wood:
- The Republicans learned they can win again (VA, NJ), but only if they can unify their warring factions (NY-23). The Democrats learned they have a different kind of base problem. They have a year to figure out how to get more of their base activists to the polls for another election (the midterms of November 2010) when President Obama won’t be on the ballot.
- The Garden State results simply prove that New Jerseyans hated Jon Corzine more than they loved Barack Obama. Obama’s high ratings weren’t enough to save Corzine, who was deeply unpopular because of high property taxes, among other reasons.
- In retrospect, NY-23 was almost comical–another fine mess created by local and national GOP “leaders”. And the results are plain for all to see. Republicans are now down to two, count ’em, two U.S., House seats out of 29 in New York state. In the mid-90s, they had 13 House seats–plus a U.S. senator and the governorship. Some compromise candidate in NY-23 would have delivered a victory to the GOP, instead of a defeat–the loss of a seat they have held since the early 1870s–that spoiled their otherwise good showing last night. I doubt these circumstances will be repeated quite as widely in 2010 as some think. Still, there are dozens of senior Republicans who have omelet, not just egg, on their faces over this debacle.
- Beleaguered Republicans got a tonic on Tuesday. The significance of the off-year elections may be overblown, yet the results will help Republicans recruit some strong congressional and state legislative candidates for 2010.
- When a party drops the two big prizes on any election night, it leads the list of losers. 2009 is not a year Democrats will fondly remember. President Obama couldn’t help Creigh Deeds duplicate his transformative ’08 victory in competitive Virginia, and, more surprisingly, Obama couldn’t help an ally, Gov. Jon Corzine, in heavily Democratic New Jersey. Obama apparently has coattails only when he is at the top of the ballot, and that must worry shaky Democratic incumbents up in ’10.
- Democratic National Committee Chairman and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is also high up on the list of losers. He presided over an electoral debacle in his own state. Unlike his predecessor, Gov. Mark Warner, he failed to prepare the way for a Democratic successor in Richmond and probably made a serious mistake in becoming chairman at all. It took him out of state too much and made him a partisan rather than a unifying figure. National ambitions have tripped up four of the last five Virginia governors. When you only have one four-year term, maybe the voters expect you to take care of business at home. Bob McDonnell might want to remember that when he is touted for the 2012 national GOP ticket.
- Turnout played a huge role in the outcomes in both NJ and VA, with Republicans showing up in droves and Democrats going fishing, at least to some degree. In Virginia, one result of absentee Democrats was the lowest voter turnout for a gubernatorial election in the state’s modern two-party history (1969 to 2009). The 2009 turnout of 39.8 percent of the registered voters was the lowest in forty years. Even with all the population growth since 2005, the absolute voter turnout in 2009 (1.97 million) fell below that of four years ago (2.0 million). And the electorate was barely more than half that of 2008 (3.7 million). Astounding.
- Does anybody doubt African-Americans weren’t engaged in this week’s elections? Here’s some proof for remaining doubters, in a sampling of heavily black precincts around Virginia. Even though Creigh Deeds received a larger percentage of the black vote (93 percent) than the previous Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Tim Kaine, in 2005 (90 percent), the turnout was miserable for Deeds–more than 10 full percentage points lower. He received many fewer African-American votes than Kaine, despite near-unanimous backing from blacks who cast a ballot.
Virginia Voter Turnout, 1969-2009
African-American Voting in Key Precincts,
2005 vs. 2009